The Government intends for every citizen in the Republic to be offered a Covid-19 vaccine by September, the Health Minister has confirmed.
Stephen Donnelly told the Dáil that the State is due to get 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the first quarter of the year.
European Union leaders will meet by video conference later today, to discuss a target of vaccinating 70 per cent of the bloc’s population by the summer.
“We’re planning our programme based on a supply of vaccines that would mean that every citizen can be vaccinated by September, so that’s what we’re working to,” Mr Donnelly said.
“But as colleagues I know are aware, the timelines are indicative, but they hopefully will provide some reassurance and some clarity for people.”
Mr Donnelly also provided an update on the second group of people to be prioritised in the Republic’s vaccine rollout, saying carers who work in the formal sector and who are employed by the HSE or private caring companies will be included.
The second cohort of people vaccinated will also newly include dentists, as the vaccine is rolled out to all healthcare workers.
The latest figures show that 94,000 people have received a Covid-19 vaccine dose in the Republic, with some 71,000 doses administered to frontline healthcare workers and a further 23,000 to residents or staff of long-term residential facilities.
The updated figure means 1.89 per cent of the Irish population has now received the first dose of a vaccine to protect against the disease. A total of 140,000 vaccines are due to be administered by this Sunday.
In Northern Ireland, more than 130,000 first doses have been distributed with 7 per cent of the population inoculated.
The Republic’s vaccine rollout will soon further ramp up, as the Cabinet approved a €91 million deal for GPs and pharmacists to vaccinate 1.5 million people across GP surgeries and mass vaccination centres.
However, the plan depends in large part on the delivery of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which will be easier to distribute as it does not require ultra-cold storage.
The Taoiseach has said doses of the vaccine are not expected to arrive in the Republic any sooner than mid-February, provided it is approved for use by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) at the end of January.